The Patriots opened up the 2019 Draft by taking Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry, the first wideout taken in the first round by the Patriots with Bill Belichick calling the shots. That helps to solve a need to add an outside receiver who can compete against press-man coverage, perhaps the biggest weakness of the offense in 2018, which was exploited in the Patriots’ five losses and at times in the Super Bowl. Getting that X receiver was arguably one of the biggest needs for the Patriots going into the draft and I am happy that they picked up a blue chip prospect to address that need.
With Day 1 in the books, these are the remaining needs for the Patriots going into Day 2 and 3 of the draft:
Jawaan Taylor was considered a consensus Top 20 prospect in the media, but the Patriots elected to pass on him for Harry. This draft is pretty deep at the position with plug and play guys such as Dalton Risner and Max Scharping available in Round 2. The Patriots have uncertainty at the tackle position although I think they will be able to swing a trade for an expiring rookie contract starter to buy the team time to get Isaiah Wynn ready to assume the LT duties full time.
Pass Catching TE
The Patriots will start Austin Seferian-Jenkins while heavily rotating in Matt LaCosse as the move TE in their offense, although neither guy projects to have a big role. Both players are on one-year contracts, looking to set themselves with a solid season and a better payday next March. Ryan Izzo and Jacob Hollister are holdovers from last season, although neither player has contributed much in their tenures in New England to date. Irv Smith Jr. is likely gone before the Patriots pick at 56, so the only non-project TE left in the class I see being available is Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger at the end of Round 2.
Development defensive tackle
The Patriots are 3-deep at DT, which is not enough to last for a full season. I imagine the Patriots have Danny Shelton on speed dial in case the draft does not go their way at the position. The top talents all flew off the board well before the Patriots picked in the first round. The Patriots typically like having those war daddy type players who can control 2 gaps as opposed to a smaller, penetrator types who can generate quick pressure and sacks. Options for the Patriots on Day 2 include Daylon Mack, Renell Wren, and Khalen Saunders, all of whom measured in north of 318 pounds at the combine although Wren was the only player who was taller than 6’1” in the group.
Rotational edge rusher
The Patriots are also 3-deep on the edge unless Derek Rivers or Keionta Davis take a Year 3 leap. With the 49ers drafting Nick Bosa, Belichick should call John Lynch to ask about Solomon Thomas’ availability. If they elect to pick up edge rusher depth via the draft, Chase Winovich probably doesn’t make it to 56, but there are other solid Day 2 options. In the second round, the top talent likely to be on the board around 56 is Boston College edge rusher Zach Allen, who is solid as both a run defender and pass rusher. Allen is a lot like Trey Flowers in the sense of being a quality edge setter with a pass . rushing game that centers more on disruption than production. In the 3rd Round the Patriots have options with D’Andre Walker, Jachai Polite, and Christian Miller all make sense as battle-tested SEC edge rushers and has the versatility to be hand in the dirt or stand up rushers capable of dropping.
The Patriots will likely ink Tom Brady to another extension before the season begins, although that may not be the case with Brian Hoyer. Hoyer is scheduled to hit free agency after the season although if NE wants him back he’s likely to return anyway. Given that Brady turn 42 just after the start of camp, the Patriots have to look at the position as a whole and find a guy to develop behind Brady. The next QB to go in the draft will be Drew Lock, who is likely to be one of the first players taken in Round 2. After him, the Patriots could target Will Grier, Brett Rypien, and Ryan Finley. All three players are experienced starters, but come with question marks about arm strength and overall ceiling. Any one of the three would be a solid pickup for a backup QB spot, although in terms of starter potential the odds are very low.
Aside from Harry, the closest players to roster locks at the position are Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett. The team also brought in Maurice Harris and Demaryius Thomas as outside receiver depth, although Thomas may not be ready to start the season and Harris’ upside is that of a WR3 and is on a 1-year contract. The Patriots don’t necessarily need to double-dip at the receiver position, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to use one of their three third round picks to get a WR2 upside player. Stanley Morgan Jr. (unrelated to New England’s former star receiver), Andy Isabella, Mecole Hardman, and Miles Boykin come to mind. Morgan is the most pro-ready of the group, although the latter three players come with a speed upside. Boykin is probably the least likely to get picked up since he’s a similar body type at WR to Harry.